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Nanotech & Metaphors
- Casting Spells
- Living Factories / Foundaries
While watching the Paul Rothemond's TED talk these are some of the thoughts and questions that arose.
Movies to watch: Blade runner
Ted talks to watch:
Books to read:
Shaping things Cradle to cradle
Research James King
Thoughts to write about:
What is life?
Can life be categorised by reproduction, metabolism and/or evolution?
“Life performs computation” How does that quantify or qualify life?
What are your views on metaphors, are they serious, can they be taken seriously?
Who is “Watson” in the field of nanotechnology?
When altering DNA “a sensitivity to small changes – single mutations - that result in ”meaningful” large changes”, what are the consequences, what does it take to alter DNA to produce a desires mutation?
How accurate is the comparison between DNA alterations to the binary system in banking?
“Can we write molecular programs to build technology?”
What is the difference?
Is like about computers building computers?
Today how long do you use a cell phone?
Was it designed obsolesce? So in a way it was designed to die? What does it mean for a phone to die?
In the future if it was possible to grow a phone from a seed, when would the phone know when to stop growing and when would it know to die, and how to die?
Research “Lifecycle Analysis” How would or could this change with the introduction of molecular programming? What would the death of a product mean?
Why DNA? Because “DNA is the cheapest, easiest to understand and the easiest to program material” to create Nano scale computers. What is your opinion of this?
Look for the Moore’s Law Graph, one that validates that if it were to be true where nanotechnology would have to kick in.
What is innovation?
Can you write a nano virus?
Look up Tony Fry, What are his views on the designers of the future?
Some basic mindmapping on Nanotech and Biomod:
Networking mindmaps on success: BIOMOD-nanotechnology (Click on each of the four sections to have a better look at the pointers)
Few links over researching :
Can art make nanotechnology easier to understand? http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/12/1223_031223_nanotechnology.html
Six challenges for molecular nanotechnology: http://www.softmachines.org/wordpress/?p=175
Feasibility arguments for molecular nanotech : http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/2008/03/feasibility-arguments-for-molecular-nanotechnology/
Nano Art Competition! : http://www.nanowerk.com/news/newsid=3811.php
Technological and mechanical metaphors for the Human Body:
Comparisons of the body to machine are sometimes seen in a negative light; endemic of a mechanistic worldview which is overly-reductive approach to something as complex and beautiful as the human body.
Ok, a "yawn" is over-trivialising the anti-mechanist critique, but I want to argue that kid's body books employing robot metaphors are a bit more complicated than that (personally, I think you can say the same of Blake's Newton, but that's another story). My central point is that mechanical analogies provide a diverse set of cultural referents. Machines comes in a range of sizes, shapes and styles, and people use and think about them in a range of ways. Further, both machines and the way cultures have understood them has changed over time.
From Brain, mind and medicine: essays in eighteenth-century neuroscience
By Harry A. Whitaker, Christopher Upham Murray Smith, Stanley Finger
The language of genetic technology: Metaphor and media representation
Patents and the Metaphors We Own By
"The nature and commercial uses of biologically pure cultures of microorganisms are much more akin to inanimate chemical compositions such as reactants, reagents, and catalysts ... than they are to horses and honeybees, or to raspberries and roses." Judge Giles Rich, 1977
THIS theme reads oddly, perhaps. But the title is inspired by a fascinating book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson called Metaphors We Live By, published in 1980 by Chicago University Press. In 1957 Vance Packard wrote The Hidden Persuaders, which showed how far our minds may, without our being aware, be influenced by advertisers. Three centuries earlier, Robert Hooke identified miniature walled compartments in the tree bark he was observing through his microscope. Reminded of the enclosed spaces inhabited by monks, he called them cells. In the present century, biologist Steven Rose comments in his book Lifelines on “the power of technological metaphor in biology”, one consequence of which is that “living systems become analogized to machines”.
Intellectual property has its hidden persuaders too. It also has its questionable metaphors and analogies. Business models in the biological sciences are heavily dependent on the patent system for protecting subject matters deemed to be inventions and for the mass filing and aggressive assertion of patents. This is as true for pharmaceuticals as it is for seeds and the various commercial sectors based on biotechnology. International, regional, bilateral and national patent rulemaking has been co-opted, and is supporting these business models, irrespective of whether or not they benefit any stakeholders other than the companies concerned. In my view, this is a matter warranting serious concern.
Power is of course central to any explanation of why particular economic actors get more of what they want than rival ones, and why public policy institutions such as patent systems get “captured”, or at least disproportionately influenced, by certain interest groups. Academics have an important role to play in challenging and speaking truth to power, at least in our areas of competence. Reversing massive power disparities takes a lot more than a provocative article, book chapter – or webpage! But exposing and scrutinising the metaphors, analogies and registers disguising the apparent objectivity of the language deployed by the powerful to get what they want is something that social scientists ought to be well placed to do. Since both patent law and biology, arguably an immature and inexact science, are highly dependent on shared language to function at all, they are also susceptible to strategic promotion of persuasive yet questionable metaphors, analogies and styles of communication which become universally adopted.
Businesses’ deployment of language has been extremely successful, and for a very long time. This is not of course to say that metaphors, analogies and styles of communication are inherently dubious. Far from it: metaphor is integral to language and therefore to verbal and written communication. Reasoning without the use of analogy will not take us far at all. The point is that they should not be taken for granted and that just as they can helpfully explain and illuminate the complex and obscure, they can also mislead and deceive. They are not objective, and they have a shelf-life. Hooke’s usage of the word “cell” is of course completely outdated: no-one any more thinks that cells look like cells. But despite the metaphor’s obsolescence, we seem to be stuck with it for the time being. As we will see below, there are others that would do a far better job.
Cells: Rooms, Factories, Business Park ... or Ikeas?
In his book, The Origins of Life, Paul Davies describes beautifully the mysterious, wonderfully complex and chaotic yet orderly hustle and bustle of life at the cellular level
As a simple-minded physicist, when I think about life at the molecular level, the question I keep asking is How do all these mindless atoms know what to do? The complexity of the living cell is immense, resembling a city in the degree of its elaborate activity. Each molecule has a specified function and a designated place in the overall scheme so that the correct objects get manufactured. There is so much commuting going on. Molecules have to travel across the cell to meet others at the right place and the right time in order to carry out their jobs properly. This all happens without a boss to order the molecules around and steer them to their appropriate locations. No overseer supervises their activities. Molecules simply do what molecules have to do: bang around blindly, knock into each other, rebound, embrace. At the level of individual atoms life is anarchy – blundering, purposeless chaos. Yet somehow, collectively, these unthinking atoms get it together, and perform the dance of life with exquisite precision.
Let us suppose that Robert Hooke came back to life in an alternative today’s world different from the actual one only in the absence of any curiosity about microbiology, and decided to be first to look at something living through an electron microscope. Would he really name them after the little places monks go to pray alone? This is unlikely in the extreme. He is far more likely to call them IKEAs. As most people are aware, IKEA is a massive windowless Swedish furniture superstore, packed on Saturdays with millions of biological compositions of matter milling around apparently aimlessly, and constantly getting in each other’s way, yet almost magically ending up at a place called the exit wielding bulky flatpacks almost but not quite falling off inadequately-sized trolleys. There are two kinds of biological composition (if you’ll forgive for a moment some rather crass gender stereotyping - I don't really mean any of it. Honest). There are the males, who are quite versatile. Their task is to pull the flatpacks off the racks, drag them onto the trolley, push it along without knocking into things, find the exit, join a long queue, and then pay. They are also supposed to turn the flatpack into a piece of furniture when they get home, but let’s not overcomplicate matters. The others are females. These could be called “smart compositions”. Their role seems quite simple: to choose what to put in the trolley. But usually this task turns out to be very complicated involving peculiar convoluted and sudden abrupt movements. And yet they know exactly what they are doing. Admittedly, describing the painful choreography of masses of IKEA visitors, many of whom wish to God they’d gone to the football that day, searching interminably for the bloody exit as a “dance of life” sounds a bit far-fetched. None of this may of course matter. Perhaps what’s good for GlaxoSmithKline or Syngenta is good for the rest of us: give them what they want and they will give us what we need. However, as I will argue, the ‘fit’ between the patent system and biology is highly questionable, much more so than business and governments supporting these business models would have us believe. Unfortunately, the strategic use and acceptance of misleading and deceptive metaphor, analogy and register makes it seem as if biological patenting is completely unproblematic. This impedes a proper debate on how biological innovation should best be promoted. With the age of synthetic biology about to start, this is a debate that we urgently need to have.
Fritz Kahn: Man as an Industrial Palace Watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__OGncEPgrE
How far can the analogy for a Cell as a Computer be taken? http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060123121832.htm